Left-leaning website Mediapart first reported that Jérôme Cahuzac, then French budget minister, had a Swiss bank account last December 4th, writes Lara Marlowe .
Mediapart put online a 12-year-old phone recording of Mr Cahuzac saying he wanted to close his account at UBS because it was "not well hidden".
Since it was founded by former Le Monde editor Edwy Plenel in 2008, Mediapart has earned a reputation for fierce investigative reporting. It was the driving force behind the Bettencourt scandal that brought down former budget minister Éric Woerth, and which last month resulted in former French president Nicolas Sarkozy being placed under investigation for "abusing the weakness" of France's richest woman.
Following the Mediapart report, Mr Cahuzac swore “eye to eye” to the French president, prime minister and finance minister that he had never had a bank account abroad. He threatened to sue Mediapart for defamation. Mediapart was heavily criticised by other French media, which claimed it was attempting to play the role of the judiciary and offered no evidence.
Mediapart is sold by online subscription and refuses all advertising. Yet it became profitable in 2011. Inspired by WikiLeaks, it launched FrenchLeaks.
French president François Hollande was filmed talking to Plenel at a Socialist Party summer school two years before his election. When the socialists returned to power, Mr Hollande said, they would fear “what will be the duty to inform, to criticise, which Edwy and his team will fulfil”.
After Mr Cahuzac’s admission of guilt, Mr Plenel said that “what makes the misfortune of democracy does not make journalists happy”.